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Bahrain’s prince Khalifa bin Salman al-Khalifa, the world’s longest-serving prime minister who had held the post since independence in 1971, died Wednesday at the age of 84, state media announced.

Prince Khalifa was a controversial figure during his long time in office — and deeply unpopular with the Sunni-ruled kingdom’s Shiite population.

When Shiite-led protesters occupied Manama’s Pearl Square for a month in 2011, before being driven out by Saudi-backed security forces, their main demand was for Khalifa to step down. prime 

He played a key role in Bahrain’s political and economic affairs for more than three decades after setting the stage for a referendum that put paid to the Shah of Iran’s claims to the tiny Gulf archipelago.

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But the prime minister, who was accused by dissidents of opposing political reforms and cracking down on activists, took a lower profile after his nephew King Hamad ascended the throne in March 1999.

Prince Khalifa passed away at the Mayo Clinic Hospital in the United States, the official Bahrain News Agency said.

The burial ceremony will take place after his remains are transported home, and in line with coronavirus restrictions the ceremony will be limited to a “specific number” of relatives, it said. prime 

The country will hold a week of official mourning, during which flags will be flown at half-mast. Government ministries and departments will be closed for three days.

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